Winners 2018

Taylor Woodrow Partnership Award Coed y Bleiddiau Cottage Landmark Trust
Great Western Craft Skills Award Cleethorpes station clock tower Network Rail and Colt Construction
  Stirling engine shed Historic Environment Scotland
Bombardier Crossrail Award for Urban Heritage Carlisle station roof Galliford Try
London Underground Operational Enhancement Award Goathland station North Yorkshire Moors Historical Railway Trust
Bam Nuttall Structures Restoration Award Cynghordy Network Rail
Supporters Award St Pancras drinking fountain HS1
Stagecoach Volunteers Award East Coast main line signage Network Rail volunteers
Railway Heritage Trust Conservation Award Worksop station and box Network Rail
Siemens Signalling Award Sheffield Park Bluebell Railway
Hendy & Pendle Trust Commercial Restoration Award Durham waiting room Ouseburn Leisure Group
Sir William McAlpine Award for The best overall entry Tay Bridge Network Rail and Taziker International

Review of the Year

The view from the roof of Carlisle station (‘Citadel’ until well into BR days) is superb. As well as the city lying below us, with its great but sham drum towers guarding the entrance, there are the railway tracks and of course the impressive reroofing works undertaken by Galliford Try for Network Rail. The old roof was beyond sensible repair, with pieces of glass tending to fall off into safety netting (rather than onto unsuspecting passengers below) and so opaque that the platform ambience was gloomy. Now all is transformed: shadows of the original, now restored, iron framework play across platforms and trains as light streams in; up above the judges could appreciate the sheer extent of the work undertaken and the new materials (ETFE for the glazing) employed, covering well over 10,000 square metres. Another entry allowing superb views, especially if you are into forests, is the delightful former line superintendant’s house, Coed y Bleiddiau, way up on the Ffestiniog Railway, entered by the Landmark Trust who have restored it as a holiday let.

Bare facts

These two entries illustrate the range which we received, both in size and location: 46 this year from throughout mainland UK, although two were withdrawn before judging as still incomplete. Wales furnished four of these and Scotland five, with another, the Edinburgh and London direction signs beside the ECML, approaching the border. As expected, Network Rail, Train Operators and their contractors featured prominently among the entrants, but seven community or friends groups, an individual and an architects’ practice threw their hats into the ring, plus Historic Environment Scotland. Other commercial entrants and heritage railways each provided six. Sensitive conversions of redundant railway premises to other uses give new life to these structures and we welcome their appearance into the competition.

Bridges and Bars

We opened with the elevated view at Carlisle. Equally lofty views are possible from the trains passing over the Tay Bridge, the longest railway bridge in the UK, and so its full refurbishment was itself going to be a protracted affair; likewise the Cynghordy Viaduct on the remote Central Wales line, with its impressive maximum height of 102 feet. Both were submitted by Network Rail who also put in the rebuilt bridge over the River Witham in Lincoln. If elevated views of Manchester are your thing then the Ordsall Chord is a must, incorporating as it does certain older structures as well as a striking new one. But some dislike views of the railway; the then owner of Gisburn Park in Lancashire insisted that an ornamental tunnel was built over the new railway where it passed through his landscape. Over a century later one of the eight turrets had to be rebuilt to remove a tree, not a part of the original scheme. A couple of years ago we lamented that the nicely restored and unusual Newark Castle station lacked an occupier; Carriages Cafe have entered who have rectified this. Other hospitality business-led work has been done at Reading (the main 1865 block has been transformed into the Three Guineas pub), Durham station (Ouseburn Leisure Group Ltd have converted a waiting room), the station master’s house at Welwyn North and the Sleeper Guest Lounge and Conference Centre at Perth station (Serco Caledonian Sleepers Ltd). All these could swallow the tiny Platform 3 at Claygate station which, based in the former coal office, sees itself as the smallest pub in the country (Brightwater Brewery).

Stations Large and Small

Work at nearly a score of stations was entered this year and while none matched the sheer extent and complexity of that at Carlisle mentioned earlier, a lot of sensitive refurbishment or rebuilding has been undertaken, such as the ongoing restoration of the extensive stations at Middlesbrough and Peckham Rye (Benedict O’Looney Architects). Extensive work has been completed at Worksop and Wigan Wallgate in the north, Herne Hill in London and Bognor Regis in Sussex. Still in the south, Portslade and the Southern Railway-built stations at Margate and Ramsgate, which both have stylistic echoes in the USA, all received attention. At Cambridge the disused South Pavilion has been brought back to life, at Cleethorpes the delightfully ornate station clock tower has been carefully restored while St Erth station in Cornwall has benefited from some new building. Govia Thameslink, Great Western, Greater Anglia and Southeastern join Network Rail as entrants here.
Talking of new build, volunteers on the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway and Helston Railway have faithfully recreated the erstwhile wayside halts at Heniarth and Truthall respectively. On a much larger scale the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway is building an impressive new station at Broadway in GWR style (the roof steelwork and aspects of the booking hall were entered this year); we look forward to seeing the completed building in due course. At Goathland the North York Moors Railway has restored to its original use the up waiting room which had been used as a shop for many years, moving this facility to a new building in NER style by the station entrance. Finally the 1993 down side waiting shelter at Ribblehead had been designed with a wooden front panel with Midland Railway style glazing in the windows and doors. Alas the ravages of Pennine weather proved too much and it needed replacing. As well as using modern treated woods the three S&C bodies jointly took the opportunity to adopt the S&C-style ‘bullseye’ fenestration, as at nearby Horton-in-Ribblesdale.

Other Interesting Projects

Engine sheds are no stranger to the Awards but our entry this year under that title – bestowed locally – was in fact a goods depot for the MoD in Stirling. This has now been taken over by Historic Environment Scotland as a building conservation centre for developing heritage skills. At Dumbarton a disused part of the extensive platform buildings has been turned into a heritage centre by the local Armed Forces Veteran’s Association, restoring some fine glass work in the process. Away to the east in Fife a rare survivor of the early days of railways, a wash house at Ladybank station, has been revived by the Ladybank Development Trust. Conservation work has been done by Network Rail on former railway buildings at Southport (the original station building) and in Flat Iron Square close to London Bridge station.
Our remit does not extend to railway vehicles unless they are static, like the camping coach at Blue Anchor station near Minehead (privately entered). Equally the Postal Museum’s conversion of the workshops and adjoining running tunnels of the former GPO railway under London into the Mail Rail visitor attraction which caught our eye, a most unusual and worthwhile project. Definitely at the bottom end of the scale for size comes the delightful (and well used) drinking fountain set in the wall of St Pancras International station, a late Victorian survivor restored by HS1 Ltd. Further north the North Staffordshire Railway Study Group had identified employees missing from the imposing NSR war memorial at Stoke-on-Trent station and has ensured that their names have now been added.
Finally signaling always has its own place in the Awards. This year we judged the new signals being adopted on the Welsh Highland Railway, using a version of the traditional Ffestiniog Railway ‘Ladybird’ disc signals, while way down south we returned to the Bluebell Railway. At Sheffield Park the doll posts of the distinctive bracket signal controlling access to the station had seriously decayed along with the platform starters. While replacing them the opportunity was taken to replace other parts with genuine London Brighton and South Coast Railway items, salvaged and stored over the years that it has been operating.
We thank our forty judges who again have travelled widely, and our adjudicators who, having digested the judges’ reports and viewed their pictures, discussed animatedly before deciding on the short list and eventual winners. Our thanks too as always to the many entrants.